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US, S. Korea begin largest-ever joint air defence drill
Publication Date : 08-05-2012
South Korea and the US launched their largest joint air defence exercise against North Korean attacks on Monday amid tension over its possible nuclear test.
Based on the US-led multinational air exercise Red Flag, the Max Thunder exercise was introduced in 2008 as a biannual event.
The first Max Thunder exercise of this year, which will continue until May 18, is being conducted at the largest scale yet with 60 military aircraft taking part.
South Korean Air Force will participate with 38 aircrafts including F-15K, KF-16 fighter jets, while US forces will include F-16 and A-10 attack aircraft, early warning aircraft and the KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refuelling aircraft.
According to the Air Force, South Korean and US units will form the Blue Air team representing the allies, which will combat the Red Air team. The Red Air team will comprise personnel and aircraft from the Korean Air Force’s training wing.
The 12-day exercise will be conducted under the leadership of Korea’s Air Force Operations Command at the 1st Fighter Wing in Gwangju.
During the period, units from the South Korean Air Force and the US’ 7th Air Force will engage in exercises designed to improve the allies’ ability to attack enemy forces and for protecting friendly air space.
The exercise will also include aerial refuelling drills for the first time, the Air Force said. Pilots who complete the aerial refuelling training successfully will be given aerial refuelling instructor status.
This year’s Max Thunder exercise will also see the participation of Special Forces operatives and a Navy destroyer as part of the efforts to improve the different branches of the armed forces to operate together, the Air Force said.
The Special Forces personnel will participate in air strike targeting drills, while the destroyer will simulate ship-to-air threats.
“The drill will display our readiness and joint air firepower with the US that can immediately retaliate in case of an emergency on the Korean Peninsula,” the Air Force said in a statement.
North Korea, which carried out a long-range rocket launch despite warnings from the international community in April, has warned that it will carry out a third nuclear test, and on April 23 threatened South Korean targets including President Lee Myung-bak of “special action” that will annihilate the targets within minutes.